Fast, Furious and Dubious? MDPI and the Depth of Peer Review Reports

Authors : Abdelghani Maddi, Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri

Peer review is a central component of scholarly communication as it brings trust and quality control for scientific knowledge. One of its goals is to improve the quality of manuscripts and prevent the publication of work resulting from dubious or misconduct practices.

In a context marked by a massification of scientific production, the reign of Publish or Perish rule and the acceleration of research, journals are leaving less and less time to reviewers to produce their reports. It is therefore is crucial to study whether these regulations have an impact on the length of reviewer reports.

Here, we address the example of MDPI, a Swiss Open Access publisher, depicted as a Grey Publisher and well known for its short deadlines, by analyzing the depth of its reviewer reports and its counterparts. For this, we used Publons data with 61,197 distinct publications reviewed by 86,628 reviewers.

Our results show that, despite the short deadlines, when they accept to review a manuscript, reviewers assume their responsibility and do their job in the same way regardless of the publisher, and write on average the same number of words.

Our results suggest that, even if MDPI’s editorial practices may be questionable, as long as peer review is assured by researchers themselves, publications are evaluated similarly.

URL : Fast, Furious and Dubious? MDPI and the Depth of Peer Review Reports


The pandemic and changes in early career researchers’ career prospects, research and publishing practices

Authors : Hamid R. Jamali, David Nicholas, David Sims, Anthony Watkinson, Eti Herman, Cherifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Blanca Rodrıguez-Bravo, Marzena Świgoń, Abdullah Abrizah, Jie Xu, Carol Tenopir , Suzie Allard


As part of the Harbnger-2 project, this study aimed to discover the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on junior researchers’ work-life, career prospects, research and publishing practices and networking.


An online international survey of 800 early career researchers (ECRs) was conducted in 2022. A questionnaire was developed based on three rounds of interviews and distributed using multiple channels including publishers, social media, and direct email to ECRs.


The impact of the pandemic on career prospects, morale, job security, productivity, ability to network and collaborate, and quality and speed of peer review has on the whole been more negative than positive.

A quarter of ECRs shifted their research focus to pandemic-related topics and half of those who did, benefited largely due to increased productivity and impact. The majority worked remotely/from home and more than two-thirds of those who did so benefitted from it. While virtual or hybrid conferences have been embraced by the majority of ECRs, around a third still preferred face-to-face only conferences.

The use of library online platforms, Sci-Hub, ResearchGate, Google Scholar and smartphone to search and access full-text papers increased. ECRs prioritised journals with fast submission procedures for the publishing of their papers and spent more time on increasing the visibility of their research. Fees were a problem for publishing open access.


Although, generally, the pandemic negatively impacted many aspects of ECRs’ work-life, certain research areas and individuals benefited from being more appreciated and valued, and, in some cases, resulted in increased resources, better productivity and greater impact.

Changes, such as the use of digital technologies and remote working created new opportunities for some ECRs. While continuing work flexibility and hybrid conferences might benefit some ECRs, institutions should also take measures to help those ECRs whose career and productivity have been adversely impacted.

URL : The pandemic and changes in early career researchers’ career prospects, research and publishing practices


Choosing the ‘right’ journal for publication: Perceptions and practices of pandemic-era early career researchers

Authors : David Nicholas, Eti Herman, David Clark, Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Abdullah Abrizah, Anthony Watkinson, Jie Xu, David Sims, Galina Serbina, Marzena Świgoń, Hamid R. Jamali, Carol Tenopir, Suzie Allard

Presents early data from an investigation of the work lives and scholarly communication practices of 177 early career researchers (ECRs) from eight countries. Utilizing mainly coded and textual data from interviews, the paper reports on the findings that pertain to publishing papers in peer reviewed journals.

We examine which factors are taken into account when choosing the journal to publish their research in, identifying similarities/differences by country, age, academic status and discipline. Also, explored is whether the pandemic has changed decision-making. Main findings are that the aim for ECRs is to publish in the ‘best’ journals, variably measured by prestige, impact factor, standards of peer review and indexation.

Appropriateness of audience is the only factor unrelated to the quality of the journal that figures highly among the factors that guide ECRs in the process of selecting a journal.

The pandemic has made little difference to the majority of ECRs when they decide on a journal for publishing their research. However, there is a greater awareness of the need for a faster turnover rate, brought on by the importance accorded to speedy publication during the pandemic.



The impact of the pandemic on early career researchers: what we already know from the internationally published literature

Authors : Eti Herman, David Nicholas, Anthony Watkinson, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Abdullah Abrizah, Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Hamid R. Jamali, David Sims, Suzie Allard, Carol Tenopir, Jie Xu, Marzena Świgoń, Galina Serbina, Leah Parke Cannon

In order to take account of the impact of the pandemic on the already changing scholarly communications and work-life of early career researchers (ECRs), the 4-year long Harbingers study was extended for another two years.

As a precursor to the study (featuring interviews and a questionnaire survey), currently underway, an analytic review of the pertinent literature was undertaken and its results are presented here.

The review focuses on the challenges faced by ECRs and how these compare to the ones more senior researchers have to tackle. In the examination of the literature three general questions are posed: Q1) What are the identifiable and forthcoming impacts of the pandemic-induced financial pressures felt in the Higher Education sector on ECRs’ employment and career development prospects? Q2) What are the identifiable and forthcoming pandemic-associated disruptions in the pace/focus/direction of the research undertaking? Have any disruptions been predicted to exert an impact on ECRs’ research activities, and if so, with what scholarly consequences? Q3) How is the work-life of ECRs shaping up under the virus-dictated rules of the ‘new normal’ in the research undertaking? What challenges, if any, arise from the changes in practices identified, and what might their potential consequences be for ECRs?

The broad conclusion of the study is that the literature leaves little room for doubt: junior researchers are already disproportionally affected by and bear the burden of the ongoing pandemic-incurred hardships and they are likely to remain similarly impacted when more trials, still unfolding, materialise.


La fin de la publication scientifique ? Une analyse entre légitimité, prédation et automatisation

Auteure/Author : Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri

La courte histoire de la communication scientifique sur le Web se caractérise par des régulations spécifiques au numérique : accélération, ouverture et fragmentation. Au cœur de ces régulations, le modèle de la « Revue » devient moins le vecteur de diffusion de l’information scientifique que le lieu de structuration et de convergence des stratégies des acteurs impliqués.

Revues légitimes, revues médias, revues prédatrices ou bien encore revues générées automatiquement, composent aujourd’hui « l’offre » de la publication scientifique disponible via des plateformes qui contribuent à en effacer les caractéristiques et les repères.

Ainsi, l’information scientifique, concept apparu après-guerre, trouve un champ d’intervention conceptuel et opératoire nouveau, qui dépasse la multiplication et la généralisation du modèle de la plateforme (archives ouvertes, serveurs de pré-prints, réseaux sociaux…). Il permet de prendre en charge l’évolution des sciences, de leurs objets et de leurs pratiques.

Mais surtout il permet de penser les nouvelles formes de validation scientifiques qui se redéfinissent, à l’intersection des champs scientifique, social et médiatique, et qui soulèvent de nouvelles questions à leur tour.


How is open access publishing going down with early career researchers? An international, multi-disciplinary study

Authors : David Nicholas, Hamid R. Jamali, Eti Herman, Jie Xu, Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Anthony Watkinson, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Abdullah Abrizah, Marzena Świgoń, Tatiana Polezhaeva

This study explores early career researchers’ (ECRs) appreciation and utilisation of open access (OA) publishing. The evidence reported here results from a questionnaire-based international survey with 1600 participants, which forms the second leg and final year of a four year long, mixed methods, longitudinal study that sought to discover whether ECRs will be the harbingers of change when it comes to scholarly communications.

Proceeding from the notion that today’s neophyte researchers, believed to hold millennial values of openness to change, transparency and sharing, may be best placed to power the take-up of OA publishing, the study sought to discover: the extent to which ECRs publish OA papers; the main reasons for their doing or not doing so; and what were thought to be the broader advantages and disadvanta-ges of OA publishing.

The survey data is presented against a backdrop of the literature-based evidence on the subject, with the interview stage data providing contextualisation and qualitative depth. The findings show that the majority of ECRs published in OA journals and this varied by discipline and country.

Most importantly, there were more advantages and fewer disadvantages to OA publishing, which may be indicative of problems to do with cost and availability, rather than reputational factors.

Among the many reasons cited for publishing OA the most important one is societal, although OA is seen as especially benefiting ECRs in career progression. Cost is plainly considered the main downside.

URL : How is open access publishing going down with early career researchers? An international, multi-disciplinary study

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La prédation dans le champ de la publication scientifique : un objet de recherche révélateur des mutations de la communication scientifique ouverte

Autueurs/Authors : Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Sarah Rakotoary, Pascal Bador

L’article présente un état de l’art critique du phénomène des revues prédatrices qui touche le champ de la communication scientifique et en fait une de ses actualités les plus médiatisées. Il rend compte des débats en cours, des recherches menées et de leurs méthodologies.

L’article discute la définition de la revue prédatrice et propose une analyse du nouveau marché de listes de revues « légitimes » et « illégitimes ». Il identifie les principaux enjeux éthiques et scientifiques que les revues prédatrices font peser sur la publication en Libre Accès et rend compte des contextes qui conduisent des chercheurs (jeunes et seniors) à y publier.

En rattachant les revues prédatrices au champ de la communication scientifique, l’article en pointe les principales problématiques et les érige en objet de recherche. L’article conclut sur des pistes de recherches contribuant à l’analyse des mutations de la communication scientifique numérique.

URL : La prédation dans le champ de la publication scientifique : un objet de recherche révélateur des mutations de la communication scientifique ouverte

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